5 More Things to Learn from the HealthCare.gov Website Problems

As I noted in last week’s blog, there are many things IT organizations can learn from the website problems on Healthcare.gov.  Here are five more things we all might learn from this website situation or any problem project that has these types of issues.

  1. Best practices and industry standards work.  I have written previously about Java coding best practices in my blog and in Enterprise Systems Journal and why they are mandatory procedures for overall technology success.  Getting every interface and development partner to adhere to industry best practices is a herculean management task.  Even though industry best practices and standards are difficult for some projects to follow, not following them is very treacherous and leads to poor performance and debugging difficulties. Follow industry best practices and your chances of success are much better.
  2. Data definitions are harder to do then you think.  Recently I have written about Schema Chaos and how JSON is helping projects with flexibility for data at rest.  As many different interfaces are defined, the data positions, domains and ranges need to be understood by all the interface participants.  Communicating this to a large nationwide distributed project and development group is even more difficult.  The new JSON technology can help integrate your data, but it is no substitute for good data definitions.   Having good consistent data definitions are critical to project success.
  3. Performance statistics should be captured throughout the development.  Scalability for all applications should be designed into the fabric of the overall application. Similar to car design, just as there are different performance designs for Formula One, the family car, and the heavy load trucks, there are different performance designs for a small brochure website and a national healthcare website.  By capturing the performance statistics throughout the application development, the application performance profile can be monitored.  Different application usage can have their performance profiles can be captured early and evaluated to determine whether the performance will handle the application type.  Website performance doesn’t magically happen. It is designed, evaluated, and monitored throughout development to guarantee that it happens in the production environment.
  4. Simple code patterns win, bloated complex integration efforts lose.  Today’s software packages are reliable for the most part and are only a fraction of the total cost of most projects.  The IT project cost trend shows that the majority of IT costs are for the development, integration and support personnel for most projects.  The hardware and software costs are a minimum and their cost ratio continues to decline versus the personnel, complex data integration and development efforts. So simple straight forward strategies, architectures, designs and common replicated processing are the keys to streamlined development for reduced development costs.  Simple code patterns win is an easy statement but a hard road to follow especially when it’s a long-term project.
  5. PII, security, and governance are most important factors.  While having the fastest, prettiest and best user interface is great, if the system is not trustworthy it won’t be used.  Seeing the statistics about hacked websites, data breached companies and having witnessed a friend’s experience going through identify theft, I understand everyone’s need for security.  PII data masking, data encryption, and proper governance need to be proven, tested, and 100% reliable because the hacking threat is persistent and relentless.  Testing and proving your site has its security act together is good for business, legal liability, good for your customer relations, and good for your IT department because then they don’t have the constant work of security patches.  Security is vital. You can pay for it ahead of time or pay much more after incident.  This year’s holiday e-commerce is going to set revenue records. Ask yourself if the security of your personal information and credit card was not secure would you place the order?  Security is the most important factor for all websites.

Every time I hear a politician talk about the healthcare website I cringe because they have no idea what it really takes to design, build and implement any type of integrated and complex website.  These are only some the most important lessons that we can all take away for the website conversations.

Also there is a new IBM System z Total Cost of Ownership white paper by Terrie Jacopi, Ann Kilty Hernandez, Sheryl Larsen, Innes Read, and Sandy Sherrill.  This white paper details the many different ways that a z/OS solution provides the best value.  The white paper is great and the footnotes section with its links to the many other studies and articles provides for further details on all the z/OS TCO advantages.


Dave Beulke is a system strategist, application architect, and performance expert specializing in Big Data, data warehouses, and high performance internet business solutions.  He is an IBM Gold Consultant, Information Champion, President of DAMA-NCR, former President of International DB2 User Group, and frequent speaker at national and international conferences.  His architectures, designs, and performance tuning techniques help organization better leverage their information assets, saving millions in processing costs.

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